Tuesday, May 8, 2007

BURBANK: Best Little City in the U.S.A.

If you watch the "Tonight Show" with Jay Leno, you will sometimes hear him describe the location of the NBC Studios as in "Beautiful Downtown Burbank." I love it when he says this, and it's not one of his jokes either. It's absolutely true... having lived in Burbank for almost 30 years now. Burbank is a tightly-knit, friendly enclave located in the East San Fernando Valley surrounded by the chaos that is Los Angeles, and the beautiful Verdugo Mountains to the East and Hollywood Hills to the South. I first moved to Burbank more than 27 years ago, when I rented a one bedroom apartment in front of the Equestrian Center on Riverside Drive. The apartment was walking distance to my place of work in neighboring Glendale City. My wife Mitch and son Rudi soon joined me from the Philippines, and it wasn't long before we bought our first house in Burbank in the friendliest neighborhood just a stone's throw from the Disney Studios. Our new neighbors had a welcome commitee for us and to this day, we still see them, we're great friends, even though we soon moved again to a bigger house a few blocks away on Catalina Street where I now live.

Our house is in an area of Burbank known as Magnolia Park, because the main street here is Magnolia Boulevard. Magnolia Blvd. is famous for it's antique stores.
Former Philippine movie actress Cynthia Zamora has an antique store on this street called Renaissance*. Miss Zamora once starred opposite such big-name actors as Rogelio Dela Rosa and Pancho Magalona. She was nominated for a FAMAS award for best actress in 1961 for "Huwag Mo Akong Limutan."

*Cynthia Zamora finally closed her store December, 2007 after decades in that location.

Burbank is home to several major companies, movie studios, TV networks including the ice-cream company Baskin Robbins and now the internet company YAHOO also calls Burbank its home with two huge office building by the Bob Hope Airport. Hollywood is called the movie capital of the world, but that's not really true, only one major studio is in Hollywood - Paramount Studios. Burbank is the real movie capital of the world, being home to Disney Studios, the Disney Channel, ABC, NBC, at least part of Universal Studios and the giant Warner Brothers with offices of smaller movie production companies inside it and using its facilities - Clint Eastwood's Malpaso for example. I once saw Clint Eastwood at a health food store on Magnolia Blvd., I was about to approach him when he looked back, and with a scowl and a Dirty Harry squint in his eyes, or was it The Man with No Name?, stopped me dead on my tracks. Hehehe, I gingerly backed off. I was not about to mess with Dirty Harry lest he tries to make his day on my account. Don't worry Mr. Eastwood, my DVD collection of your movies is still intact. You often see movie companies filming on the streets of Burbank. It's hard not notice those huge Star Trailers that
movie actors use as dressing rooms and private quarters while filming. One time I saw William Shatner and Heather Thomas filming T.J. Hooker right across the street where I lived at the Equestrian Center. Bob Hope used to live here too at nearby Tolucca Lake and it's just appropriate that a street was named after him and also the Burbank airport is now called Bob Hope Airport. At least one movie star grew up here and went to Burbank High School - Debbie Reynolds. At age 16 in 1948, she won the Miss Burbank beauty contest. You can sometimes see her in person as the marshall of the annual Burbank Parade. Jay Leno was doing a segment for his Tonight Show about garage sales, and his crew was filming right in front of our house, at my neighbor's garage sales. I grabbed some books that he wrote and my camera. He signed the books and even posed for a picture with me.


1. Parking. The City of Burbank does not have parking meters. But watch out, there are 1 or 2-hour limits. While parking is free, Burbank police are also fast to ticket if you break the law.
2. The Burbank Bus offers free bus rides in and around the city and to the North Hollywood Subway Station. Also transports senior citizens back and forth to any destination within Burbank.
3. Free internet service at all public library branches and at Barnes & Nobles too.
Just bring your laptops.
4. The Burbank Public Library is open 7 days a week, and you can borrow movies, books and use of computers all for free with a library card, plus free cultural events such as concerts, movies showings and book signings by invited authors.
5. Gyms, parks and basketball courts are everywhere in Burbank. Two parks have olympic-size swimming pools. Tennis courts, baseball and soccer fields are are there for your enjoyment.
6. Police assistance 24 hours a day. You can also tell the police department when you're on vacation, and they'll keep watch on your house. Five-minute response to 911 calls too.
7. Watch the Tonight Show with Jay Leno live, but you have to line up for tickets at 7 AM.
8. Jog, walk or bike and keep in shape at the newly built 5-mile bike route along Chandler.
9. Art exhibits at the Creative Center for the Arts, concerts and dance lessons in front of AMC theaters during summer.
10. And my favorite, free Swedish coffee and cookies from 9:30-10AM at IKEA. Buy the 99-cent breakfast of eggs, potatoes, bacon or sausage if you want.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

LA Times Festival of Books at UCLA

Last weekend, April 27-28, the much anticipated Los Angeles Times Festival of Books was held at the spacious North campus of UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles). I have been going to this event the past 6 or 7 years. This book festival is free for everybody and it is the biggest of its kind in America as it boasts of having over 130,000 visitors, and 400 authors every year. And every year is a little bit different from previous years by the authors who are invited to join forums and book signings. Invited authors are usually those with a newly published book. In years past we've seen the likes of Pulitzer Prize winners such as E. Annie Proulx, the late David Halberstam, Alice Walker, or popular authors such as Michael Crichton, Tony Hillerman, Mary Higgins Clark,
etc. Among the guest authors this year were Gore Vidal, S.E. Hinton, Joseph Wambaugh, James Ellroy, Pulitzer prize winner Jane Smiley, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and many others. Movie actors Bruce Dern, Julie Andrews, Mariel Hemingway and Academy Award winner for best actress, Ellen Burstyn were also there to sign their books.

Philippine Expressions Bookshop also has a booth here every year. This bookshop sells only Filipino books, and it is probably the premiere purveyor and disseminator of Philippine culture - through the wonderful books they sell. The owner Linda Nietes and I go back a long way, to the Taza de Oro days where she used to sell art books to the artists.

One of the great attractions at UCLA is the 50-acre sculpture garden located just North of where the Book Festival was held. In fact you can't miss it, as you have to walk through the garden--if you parked in the North parking lot--to go to the Book Festival venue. Some of the greatest sculptors in the world is represented here, Joan Miro, Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, Jacques Lipchitz, Matisse, Barbara Hepworth, etc. Here are some pictures of the sculpture garden.